Ellen Headshot

Dr. Ellen Jefferson

Executive Director

Ellen Jefferson, DVM, has been Austin Pets Alive!’s executive director since 2008 and has led the organization’s rise from a grassroots rescue group to national thought leadership. She currently also serves as executive director of the organization’s national education and outreach division, American Pets Alive!, and as a founding member of the executive committee for the Human Animal Support Services Pilot Project (HASS), launched in March 2020. HASS promises to thoroughly redesign animal sheltering to better serve communities and people as well as animals. Under Ellen’s direction, Austin Pets Alive! first drove the process that resulted in Austin, Texas, becoming the nation’s largest No Kill city in 2011. The city now enjoys a comprehensive safety net for all shelter cats and dogs and a nearly 96% save rate for homeless animals. Her experience with Emancipet, which she founded in 1999 and led for nine years, had already made her a leader in Austin’s animal welfare community as well as nationally. Ellen served on the National Spay/Neuter Task Force from 2007-2009. She graduated from Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997. She is a featured speaker at conferences for Maddie’s Fund, Best Friends, HSUS, and is the author of “Using Data to Make Austin a No-Kill City,” published by Maddie’s Fund; and has published work in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Among her many awards, she was named the Non-Profit Executive of the Year in 2013 by Greenlights (now Mission Capital), Austin’s leading nonprofit resource center. In 2016, she won the prestigious Maddie Hero Award, which “recognizes and honors the ‘top dogs’ in communities that are not only advancing the welfare of companion animals in the United States, but are leading the way with their innovative ideas, progressive thinking and lifesaving actions.” In November 2016, she was unanimously chosen to receive the first Avanzino Leadership Award, named after the father of No Kill and given for outstanding contributions to the No Kill movement. That same month, the city of Austin named November 5th Ellen Jefferson Day. She serves on the National Steering Committee for Best Friends Animal Society, the Shelter Advisory Council for Pedigree Foundation and the North American COVID 19 Response Coalition. Ellen’s husband, Damon O’Gan, owns and operates Austin Equine Associates, a equine veterinary hospital in Driftwood. Together they share their lives with 4 dogs, 2 pet horses and one bird. She is avidly interested in wildlife, thrifting and gardening.


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